I had a great couple of hours Saturday at our local coffee shop, Plateau Espresso, with a member of my writers' group. Missy and I have busy lives with full time jobs and family and while we have always tried to set November aside for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it's not easy to find time to meet.
As usual, our writing sessions are more about touching base with others like us than about actual writing. Unlike most writing groups, we don't critique each other, or beta read, or talk about our works in progress that much. Perhaps it's because we write in such diverse genres that we don't want to lose our grounding in the world we've created in our own stories. What we do is encourage each other, offer each other advice on tools we need for writing, lend an ear when frustrations need to be vented, and occasionally help with finding just the right word ("lamp post" is the code word for situations like that... definitely an inside joke!)
We've each developed our own "teams" of editors, beta readers, and supporters, but none of those team members are actual writers. While they help us hone our craft, they don't really understand the process of writing and the struggles writers sometimes have. And that's a good thing; we want them to be the audience for whom we're writing. They don't have to know all the angst and deleted paragraphs and horrible first drafts we've gone through to get to the finished product. And while they may catch some important typos, continuity errors, and boring passages, they aren't the ones who come up with the story ideas, plot twists, and character development. They let us know if we got the job right.
Our writer friends? They're the ones we confess our fears to, the ones who know where we could go off the rails, the ones who keep us from taking the easy way out of writing conundrums ("Yes, killing the ex and framing the main character would solve the love triangle but you are NOT going to do it that way! You're a better writer than that!") They know what we love and hate about other books, they know which writers we admire and which ones we vow to never be like, and they know, they really KNOW, how we feel when we receive rejections, criticism, and praise.
I will always be thankful for the writers who have become my friends. Writing is a journey we make alone, for the most part, but knowing there are others making the same journey keeps us from feeling lonely.